Day three is where we turn all that play we have been doing into something really useful. I start by asking Carl for a “down” in exchange for the toy.
It is really normal for dogs to have trouble with this. Dogs need to be taught to switch gears between activities: eating food, playing, sitting, jumping, etc. This does not come naturally. A lot of dogs are so focused on the toy, focused externally, that they really are not aware of what their bodies are doing. They really don’t know that they are not in a down and have to really think hard to operate their limbs in that moment.
Here’s an experiment to do at home. Show your dog that you have treats, then feed your dog three treats. Record how much time it takes your dog to take the treat when presented (usually pretty much immediately). Now show your dog you have treats, then engage your dog in play for ten seconds. Now present the treat. Repeat three times. Chances are your dog took quite a while to realize you had presented a treat and decide to take it, and the more engaging the game, the slower your dog is in grabbing the treat. This is really normal and is a skill that needs to be built if you want your dog to be able to take food rewards during active and physically engaging activities.
How does this fit in with Carl? Carl is really good at this for my first try with him. I do have to do a lot of prompting with my body but he gets it. I use two toys here to get him to drop the one toy and engage me between exercises. I immediately start building this into a down-stay. I use the cue “get-it” to release him to play. He is stellar at this!
*I should put a clause in here that this train-for-toys game is appropriate for established behaviors only. If Carl did not already have a really solid grasp of what “down” meant, this would not work. I have to prompt him with my body to help him learn how to “down” when focused on a toy, not because he does not have a great understanding of the command. He already does.
And now to more “place”. Carl pretty much blew me away here. It may not seem big, but he grasps the concept of “put your feet on this thing” in only one session. This means that he already knows some version of this behavior or he’s a genius. Both are impressive.
I am rewarding first for Carl interacting with the object. I reward on the object to reinforce that it is the object that is special.
Then I reward for stretching over the object or placing feet on the object. If Carl stretches, I can reward up higher, at his eye level. I do this because placing the treat on the object would most likely cause him to step back to reach the treat and move his feet back away which could be confusing for him. I check to make sure that he is fully aware of his actions and ensure that his foot placement is intentional by releasing him to eat a treat tossed away. He immediately returns to the object and put his feet on it.
This may not seem like a big deal but for dog training nerds like me, this is a dog with talent. I immediately determine that we will build this into an incredibly snappy heel behavior. He has all the body awareness to be a flashy heeler (as in heeling) and we set our sights on that.